If you are experiencing pain in your jaw and find it problematic to yawn, speak, chew, and swallow, then you may suffer from temporomandibular disorder (TMD). TMD occurs when there is a problem with your temporomandibular joints or TMJ in the jaw. However, most people experiencing this discomfort or pain don’t know what the difference between TMJ and TMD is. Here are the differences between TMJ and TMD.

What is TMJ?

TMJ is an acronym for the temporomandibular joint. This is a small, delicate joint connecting the jawbone to the skull through the temporal bone. The TMJ acts as both a sliding joint and a hinge joint. The temporomandibular joint is unique because it helps move your jaw to open the mouth, speak, and chew. The TMJ is durable, but it may be damaged, inflamed, or irritated, which results in pain and discomfort when speaking or chewing.

What is TMD?

TMD is an acronym that stands for temporomandibular joint disorder. TMD refers to any dysfunction affecting the temporomandibular joint. TMD may affect the ligaments, discs, bones, and TMJ muscles. If the joint is improperly aligned, it may result in pain, inflammation, or inability of the jaw to operate. TMJ mainly affects people between 20-40 years of age and is more common in females. About one in ten people will have TMD symptoms sometime in life. Although TMD is not a life-threatening dental condition, it can impact the quality of your life if the symptoms are left untreated.

What Causes TMD?

Many things may cause TMD, which makes it difficult to determine the exact cause of an individual’s specific TMD. The causes of TMD are triggered by problems affecting the Temporomandibular joint or TMJ, the jaw, or muscles close to the jaw. Some of the common causes of TMD include:

  • Injury to the TMJ, muscles of the neck and face, or the jaw
  • Misalignment of the teeth or jaw
  • Arthritis affecting the joint
  • Dislocation of the soft cushion or disc
  • Pressure exerted on the TMJ by clenching or grinding teeth

What Are the Symptoms of TMD?

You may experience temporary or chronic pain and discomfort if you suffer from TMD. It is best to consult your dentist and get a diagnosis because of the many symptoms associated with temporomandibular disorders that may overlap with other medical problems such as arthritis, sinus problems, gum disease, and tooth decay. Some of the signs and symptoms associated with temporomandibular joint disorder or TMD include:

  • Earaches
  • Jaw dislocation
  • Neck aches
  • Headaches
  • Dental occlusion
  • Swelling of the face
  • Locked or stiff jaw when the mouth is open or closed
  • Inability to open the mouth very wide
  • Clicking, popping, or grating sound in the joint whenever you open or close the mouth
  • Pain or tenderness in the face, neck, shoulders, or ear when chewing, speaking, or opening the mouth

Diagnosis and Treatment of TMD

Your dentist can diagnose your temporomandibular joint disorder or TMD and offer personalized treatment. The TMD treatment will vary depending on your medical history, overall health, age, how long your condition will last, and how well your body can handle specific medicines, procedures, and therapies. Some of the treatment options for TMD include:

  • Stress management or relaxation techniques
  • Prescription medication or pain relievers
  • Physical therapy
  • Using a TENS machine for relaxation of the jaw and facial muscles
  • Behavior or habit changes and exercises to reduce or stop teeth clenching
  • Resting your temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
  • Diet changes to rest the jaw muscles
  • Mouthguard for reducing teeth grinding
  • Surgery

Follow Up on TMD Symptoms

If you are experiencing jaw pain, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist. If your dentist confirms you have TMD, they may recommend one or a combination of treatment options based on your unique circumstances. Your dental expert may also improve your bite by replacing any damaged or ill-fitting dental restorations, such as fillings and crowns, and any missing teeth. Your dentist may also offer custom night guards or other solutions to help correct this dental problem and alleviate discomfort and pain.

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